Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Online Extra: Political Notes: LGBT leaders back gay Latino LA Assembly candidate


Assembly candidate Luis Lopez is hoping to become the ninth out member of the California Legislature. Photo: Courtesy Lopez for Assembly campaign
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The gay candidate in the runoff race Tuesday for an open state Assembly seat in the Los Angeles area had extra reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving.

The day before the holiday Luis Lopez announced he had received endorsements from the California Legislative LGBT Caucus and from gay Congressman Mark Takano (D-Riverside), the state's lone LGBT member of its congressional delegation. Lopez is seeking the 51st Assembly District seat in the special election Tuesday (December 5), having placed second in the October 3 special primary behind straight former journalist Wendy Carrillo.

In a statement from Lopez's campaign, Takano said the candidate would be "an exceptional" member of the Assembly.

"Time and time again, in the important fights for health care coverage, affordable housing, civil rights, and green jobs and cleaner neighborhoods, he has worked hard to win for Californians," stated Takano. "I trust Luis to lead the way for immigrant families, gun safety, and our public schools. I am proud to endorse Luis Lopez to be California's next Assembly member." 

Should Lopez win the seat, he would become the ninth member of the LGBT caucus, marking a record for the number of out legislators serving in the Statehouse. Currently, there are four out Assembly members and four out state senators. Lopez would be the fifth gay man in the Legislature; the four other caucus members are all lesbians.

"I am honored to earn endorsements from public servants who know my leadership for LGBTQ people and families that leaves no part of our community behind," stated Lopez, 44, the director of government affairs at City of Hope comprehensive cancer center. "We face a cruel and divisive administration in Washington that is stigmatizing and stripping protections from vulnerable Californians. I will work relentlessly and without compromise to protect the dignity and equality of my LGBTQ sisters and brothers and ALL of us in California."

A win by Carrillo, 37, would increase the number of female state legislators, whose ranks have declined in recent years, as the Statehouse is rocked by sexual harassment allegations against a number of male lawmakers, one of whom resigned his seat last week. The state Legislature's current roster of 26 women is the lowest in nearly two decades.

After placing first in October with roughly 22 percent of the vote, Carrillo secured the California Democratic Party's endorsement in the runoff. She also has the backing of former Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), whose election to the state's 34th Congressional District seat in June led to the race for his Assembly seat.

Carrillo had also entered the special congressional race for the seat formerly held by Xavier Becerra, who was appointed the state's attorney general earlier this year by Governor Jerry Brown due to the election last fall of Kamala Harris as California's junior U.S. senator.

The 51st Assembly District seat includes the LGBT-friendly neighborhoods of Eagle Rock and Echo Park, as well as a portion of Silver Lake, historically one of Los Angeles' LGBT enclaves. The district also encompasses other neighborhoods north and east of downtown Los Angeles, such as Chinatown, Historic Filipinotown, and unincorporated East L.A.

Because neither Carrillo nor Lopez, who received close to 19 percent of the vote in October, surpassed the 50 percent threshold needed to capture the Assembly seat outright, they are facing off in tomorrow's election. It is the second time Lopez has sought the seat, having lost to Gomez in 2012.

As the Bay Area Reporter noted in mid-October, the runoff race between Carrillo and Lopez quickly turned heated, with his supporters claiming local Democratic officials rigged the party's endorsement vote. Lopez also labeled Carrillo a carpetbagger for moving into the district earlier this summer.

In an August interview with the B.A.R. for a story about the primary race, Carrillo expressed concern about being painted as a carpetbagger in the article. She acknowledged that she had recently moved into the district in order to seek the Assembly seat. But she pointed out that she had grown up in the district and found herself priced out of the area after college.

Lopez also grew up in the district but had moved into the neighboring Assembly district after buying a home with his partner of 13 years, Hans Johnson, in a section of Silver Lake outside the 51st Assembly District. Then, in 2011, the couple moved back into the 51st Assembly District by buying a home in Eagle Rock.

They did so not only so Lopez could seek the legislative seat but also so he would not have to compete against several incumbent lawmakers who ended up in the district that covered his former home through the decennial redistricting process.

Last month Lopez's backers alleged Carrillo's campaign was intimidating voters by asking them to hand over their mail-in ballots. While collection of such ballots is legal, the Los Angeles Times editorial board noted, "It is understandable why some might feel uneasy about it."

Meanwhile, Carrillo's campaign has accused Lopez of misrepresenting her positions on public education. She released an open letter in mid-November from a number of local schoolteachers explaining why they were supporting her in the race.

"It is truly disappointing that my opponent is engaging in politics as usual and running a negative campaign, trying to distort my record and the work I've done fighting for access to quality education to prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow," wrote Carrillo in an email to her supporters.

Yet Carrillo's backers, specifically union SEIU, came under attack on Sunday from LGBT lawmakers and Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization which is supporting Lopez in the race. They accused her supporters of using "homophobic" smears on a website and in mailers sent to voters that recycled attacks made against EQCA during a state Senate race in San Francisco last year.

In that campaign Supervisor Jane Kim tried to connect financial support EQCA's political action committee received from oil companies and other industries to gay Supervisor Scott Wiener. The ploy failed, as Wiener won the election; he called out the use of the same argument now being made about Lopez.

"Our community is under attack in this country from the Trump Administration, and we need champions. What we don't need are cheap shot campaign attacks that cynically try to undermine the credibility of our LGBT leadership," stated Wiener.

EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur called the effort by SEIU a "smear campaign" that "is homophobic, false and wrong."

Last month Lopez's campaign released internal polling results showing him with 50 percent support from 402 likely special election voters in the runoff race. Carrillo had 37 percent, and 13 percent said they were undecided.

"From East L.A., where I was born, to Silver Lake and Eagle Rock, where I have lived for 15 years since returning from earning my public policy degree from Harvard, our communities are hungry for skilled, trustworthy, evidence-driven, progressive leadership," stated Lopez. "That is my track record, and that is exactly what I will deliver from Day One as Assembly member."

Tuesday's election, coming in the middle of the holiday season, is expected to have record low voter turnout and be decided by only a handful of votes.


Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail mailto:.

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